Juul Launches Measures to Combat Underage Vaping

Will not distribute to retailers out of compliance
Photograph: Shutterstock

SAN FRANCISCO — Vape manufacturer Juul Labs announced Aug. 29 that it is implementing a series of new measures in the United States that build upon its existing efforts to combat the issue of youth access, appeal and use of vapor products.

Working with retailers across the United States, the San Francisco-based company is implementing the strictest age-verification point-of-sale standards ever imposed for an age-restricted product at retail, far exceeding those in place for other tobacco products or for alcohol, the company said. Under Juul Labs’ new Retail Access Control Standards (RACS) program, every retail point-of-sale system immediately locks when a Juul product is scanned and remains locked until a retailer electronically scans a valid, of-age government-issued ID to verify both the age and the ID validity. Additionally, RACS imposes automatic limits on the amount of product a legal-age customer can purchase. Scanned personal data will be eliminated immediately following the transaction.

Through this technology, RACS directly combats two large drivers of underage access to vapor products at retail: failure to check and verify ID, and legal-age individuals buying bulk quantities of age-restricted products to resell to minors, the company said.

More than 50 retail chains, totaling more than 40,000 outlets, have already committed to becoming RACS-compliant. More than 7,000 of those stores are currently in the process of implementing RACS, and Juul said it expects more than 15,000 stores to implement the program by the end of 2019. “By mid-2020, we expect that more than half of our sales volume will be through retailers who are RACS-compliant, and plan to stop distributing Juul products to any retailer that isn’t RACS-certified by May 2021,” the company said. “A third-party auditor will monitor each certification to ensure compliance.”

Related: Retailers express support for Juul age-verification platform

The company released the following statement about the launch of the program:

It is no small task to change retail systems and processes at tens of thousands of retail locations. It is expensive, complex and could cause friction with legal-age customers. To expedite the adoption of these standards, we are providing over $100 million of incentives and financial support to retailers that implement RACS by May 2021. To increase ease of retailer certification, we have partnered with premier service providers to build and deploy technology integrations. However, some retailers will not meet the deadline for RACS compliance and will no longer be authorized to sell Juul products. That’s a tradeoff we must make as we continue to combat youth use of Juul products.

The initial list of retailers who have agreed to implement RACS is encouraging and demonstrates the commitment many retailers are willing to make to combat underage use. Some of the earliest adopters include leading retail partners throughout the country, including Chevron ExtraMile, Cumberland Farms, Kum & Go and QuikTrip.

Initial data verify the effectiveness of this automated technological solution. We piloted RACS with three retail partners across almost 200 individual retail stores. As part of this pilot, we conducted almost 2,000 secret shop visits to these locations and witnessed failure rates of less than 1% across pilot locations, on both age-verification and bulk-purchasing compliance. This compares with current FDA age-verification compliance failures for tobacco products ranging from low single digits up to 20% for these chains. RACS offers the entire retail industry an effective tool to materially reduce and potentially eliminate violation rates, and to reach our shared goal of 100% compliance for age-verification and bulk-purchase limits.

While we work with our retailer partners to implement RACS, we have enhanced our already robust secret shopper program with significant consequences for non-compliant retailers. The new 3-Strikes-And-You’re-Out program will revoke retailers’ authorization to sell Juul products for a minimum of one year and require RACS certification if they receive three age-verification or bulk-purchase violations within the same year.

Six months ago, the majority of Americans under the age of 21 lived in places where their 18-year-old friends could legally buy Juul products. Soon, the vast majority of Americans will live in places where Juul products can be legally sold only to people 21 and older, and where no retailer can even sell Juul products without scanning a valid 21-plus ID to verify age and ID validity. Coupled with our enhanced online age-verification systems, RACS will dramatically limit youth access to our products.

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